I started my reviews of the new Ephemera by Unsound line with Noise because it is going to be the easiest of the three to approach. That doesn’t mean the remaining two, Bass and Drone, aren’t as good because they are. Perfumer Geza Schoen continued to use music as his brief for the perfumes and MFO provided video interpretations. In the continuation of the conversation I began in the Noise review Bass and Drone live right on the edge of what is commonly considered pleasant smells. This is why these might be less easy to initially embrace. I think these are perfumes worth the effort because once they invade your consciousness they are darn hard to shake.
Bass was founded on a piece of music from Kode9 aka Steve Goodman. He titled the music “Vacuum Burn”. It is his earliest olfactory memory of a vacuum cleaner which emitted a burning smell. Hr. Schoen goes for that odor of burning electronics, dust, and hair. That smell is going to be seen as flat-out unpleasant by many. I once responded to a forum thread on weird smells you like with hot electronics and the smell of hair burning. For me this means Bass accesses that affection for odd smells. Hr. Schoen does a fantastic job at bringing this to life. How he achieves this effect is to take woodsmoke and combine it with rum. The rum stands out very early on but eventually the smoke shrouds it and this forms the burning hair accord. The heated electronic accord consists of a combination in the heart of leather and black tea, on a platform of mastic. Hr. Schoen takes the mastic and uses it as a foundation to build this accord. The base notes are a rich animalic castoreum matched with oakmoss and a couple other musks. It forms a very human final accord as it reminds you there is a young child accessing a unique smell for the first time. Bass has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
The video of Bass, above, captures the sense of heat and burning but the music especially does an amazing job of this. There is a sound of crackling burning punctuated with an irregular mouse click. When I wore Bass and listened to the track I saw the image of the vacuum on overload. I spent my whole hour commute one day listening to Vacuum Burn on repeat with my eyes closed breathing deeply the evolution of Bass. The time flew by.
The piece of music Tim Hecker supplied Hr. Schoen is the antithesis of the name, Drone. It is a languidly swelling soundscape. Early on I lean in to hear the opening notes; by the end it has me sitting back in my chair. Mr. Hecker wanted “a speculative Day-Glo incense from rituals where long-form sound induces levitation.” Hr. Schoen starts with us up in the air as he uses a different set of aldehydes and ozonic notes than he used in Noise. In Noise these ingredients radiated cold. In Drone they do almost the opposite as they convey an expansive openness. This is a fabulous example of what a very talented perfumer can do with primarily the same sets of raw materials. By balancing and combining in just the right way Hr. Schoen produces two very different effects. These early moments of Drone make me feel like I am gliding a few hundred feet above the ground. The heart notes bring me in for a landing in the middle of a stand of pine trees. Fir and juniper are the heart notes but this is mostly fir with the juniper adding in depth. As I continue to take in the airy opening accord over the fir Hr. Schoen pulls out a wonderfully weird synthetic vetiver which begins to insert itself in between the other notes oozing into the spaces and creating a new fragrant accord. The base notes are patchouli and ambergris and they form perhaps the most traditional accord of any of the three fragrances in the collection. Drone has a lot of unusual angles and shifts to it to the point that on first sniff I wasn’t excited. I wore it a lot and the combination of sound and visual really drew me in. Drone has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Drone was the complete package for me. The music by itself was the one I liked the best and the one which has made it onto a playlist with other non-perfume music. This time the video captures the smell and the sound perfectly. There is a moment in the video at the 1:14 point which visualizes the way I smell the vetiver combining in the scent as the music hits the crescendo it has been building towards. This is the perfect combination of sight, sound, and smell. Because of all of this Drone has become my favorite.
Now let me return to the thesis I brought up in the review of Noise, does a perfume have to smell good? I can see showing someone these three perfumes and they can’t find anything within them that smells good. That is judging them solely on a superficial level. What I think all three of the perfumes in this collection exemplify is if you have the vision to go more than skin deep and attempt to connect with more than just the sense of smell there is something beyond the purview of simple questions like “does it smell good?”. Instead the question becomes, “Does it make me feel good?” Where the answer to the first question might be variable; if you allow these perfumes and the music and the visuals the opportunity I think the answer to the second question is something much more affirmative. If you have any interest in the potential of what perfume can do this is a collection you need to try.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples I purchased.